Flu birds

By • Published: July 9th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

As summer swings into gear and you pack for that prime spot on the beach, the flu might be the farthest thing from your mind. But in a matter of months, it’s sure to be back on your doorstep.

And like lots of people, you’ve probably heard of snowbirds… those migratory folks who seasonally flee the cold northern weather in favor of warmer southern comforts.

Here’s a new one for you… “flu” birds.

Health researchers at Tufts University combed through hospital records of people sixty-five and older.

In all, they identified almost a quarter of a million hospitalizations relating to flu between 1991 and 2004. They mapped the data across forty-eight states and Washington, D.C.

They noticed that seasonal flu tends to move in waves.

It peaks earliest in western states such as Nevada, Utah and California. Then it heads east.

Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire tend to have the latest peak in seasonal flu.

Once the first state peaks in the West, every other state in the nation will reach its own peak within four weeks.

The average flu season generally reaches its height the third week of January. Flu seasons that peak earlier than that are generally among the more severe.

Although our tongue is firmly in cheek when we suggest people might wait out the early part of flu season in the east, then, skip across country after the virus runs its course in the west, the emergence of distinct patterns of timing and intensity of seasonal flu may help health-care workers become more prepared to deal with outbreaks.

Knowing when a particularly intense flu season will occur is important for providing better care to elderly people, who generally suffer the most serious consequences from flu.

Besides that, what harm is there in a little January vacation?